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Chinese porcelain vase has worthy pedigree

Khristi Zimmeth

Hallmarks and manufacturer’s stamps are some of the first things appraisers look at when attempting to date an antique. Such is the case with a 19-inch Chinese porcelain vase painted with birds and flowers that Mack Beckett recently brought in to Trash or Treasure that was looked at by DuMouchelles’ appraiser Corinne Henzi-Schultz at the downtown auction house and gallery.

Beckett inherited the beautifully painted vase along with a number of other items from his family from Grand Rapids. He was curious about the tall vase, which he has been in the family for a number of years.

Turning it over, Henzi-Schultz identified it as a form of Chinese work known as “famille-rose,” a well-known and desired style of porcelain that refers to the coloration in the pink, carmine and other “rose family” hues. “The mark underneath indicates that it was made during the time of the Emporer Guangxu, which would be 1875-1908,” she told Beckett. “Looking at this, I don’t have any reason to doubt the mark or the authenticity, although there are certainly plenty of contemporary pieces with old marks.”

The website has a detailed background of this long-established Chinese art form. Famille-rose “so called its pink enamel, first came into being during the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735) in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and continued to be made throughout the Qianlong reign (1736-1795) and beyond. Main materials and techniques used to make the porcelain were all introduced from abroad in the beginning. When making famille-rose porcelain, craftsmen fired glass whiteness onto plain porcelain, creating patterns with Chinese painting techniques and then baking it in a kiln. During the Kangxi reign, there were only a few works of famille -rose porcelain, whose color paintings were also very simple — mainly patterns of flowers, clouds and dragons. During the Yongzheng reign, the porcelain enjoyed great improvements. Both the porcelain and decorations produced in this period featured a most delicate quality and brilliant color; these pieces are among the most highly prized works of this type of porcelain.”

The site goes on to explain how color variations, gold highlighting and different subjects later entered the mix, helping collectors and interested parties distinguish between the many eras. Henzi-Schultz praised the vase’s condition, adding that the only negative was the hole drilled into the bottom of it, possibly put there during a time when many items were converted into lamps. “I don’t know if someone ultimately decided against it, but it was a popular practice for awhile.”

She added that, overall, Chinese items are doing well at auction. The gallery recently had a pair of lamps also made from Chinese famille-rose vases that sold for $2,000 at auction, she said. Given that, she estimated Beckett’s single piece to be worth about $1,000-$2,000.

Beckett and his wife, Carole, were happy to find out more about the family piece and considered selling it. They ultimately decided to keep it, despite worries about it withstanding curious family pets. “I think we’ll hang on to it — at least for awhile,” said Carole.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Famille-rose vase

Owner : Mack and Carole Beckett

Appraised by : Corinne Henzi-Schultz, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $1,000-$2,000 at auction